Sam Sharpe/USA Today

Carolina Panthers: Does Strong Pass Rush Equal Top Pass Defense?

The Carolina Panthers will enter the 2016 season with an inexperienced secondary and hope that a strong pass rush will help overcome this. Does a strong pass rush equal a top pass defense? Brandon Croce takes a closer look at the connection between team's pass rush and their pass defense.

The Carolina Panthers will have an inexperienced secondary with players like Bene Benwikere (4 years), Robert McClain (5 years), and three rookies (James BradberryZack SanchezDaryl Worley) at cornerback. The veteran of the secondary is Kurt Coleman with seven years of experience but he will be playing alongside either Tre Boston or Dean Marlowe, and whoever wins the job will be entering their first year as a starter.

This defense though has an excellent front seven that is able to get pressure on the opposing quarterback. Last year, the Panthers finished sixth in sacks with 44 total and were led by defensive tackle Kawann Short who had 11 in the regular season.

Entering the upcoming season, the Panthers have brought back almost their entire defensive front except for Jared Allen, who retired after the season. However, they bolstered the interior of their line with the selection of Vernon Butler in the first round, who is an explosive tackle that should be able to put pressure on the quarterback.

The thought process, or hope, is that this pass rush can help take some pressure off the secondary by putting pressure on the opposing quarterback. This theory though was not proven last year based on passing yards and touchdowns against compared to sacks and defensive hurries.

Defensive Team Ranks in 2015

Team Passing Yards Against Passing Touchdowns Against Sacks Defensive Hurries
Denver Broncos 1 3 1 24
Seattle Seahawks 2 1 17 15
Houston Texans 3 11 5 16
Chicago Bears 4 25 22 9
Dallas Cowboys 5 3 25 31
Green Bay Packers 6 6 7 6
Tennessee Titans 7 29 12 26
Arizona Cardinals 8 11 20 3
Kansas City Chiefs 9 15 4 1
Baltimore Ravens 10 22 17 30
Carolina Panthers 11 7 6 5

*Defensive Hurries courtesy of

There is only one team from last year that finished in the Top 10 in every category, which was the Green Bay Packers. The Panthers came close but just missed it by finishing 11th in passing yards against. However, this defense had Josh Norman, who was one of the top cornerbacks last year.

The one thing that is clear though is that there is not a strong correlation between sacks or defensive pressures and a strong pass defense. Of the 11 teams listed in the chart, five did finish in the Top 7 in the league in sacks however five also finished in the bottom half of the league in this category.

The same would be true for defensive hurries as five teams finished in the Top 10 while the other six teams finished in the bottom half. There is a bigger discrepancy though in this category compared to sacks as four teams finished 24th or worse.

Meanwhile, the top two teams in passing yards against, the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, both have veteran secondaries and these teams also finished Top 3 in passing touchdowns against.

The Carolina Panthers are entering the 2016 season banking on the notion that a strong pass rush will help this inexperienced secondary. However, the numbers from 2015 don't necessarily support this idea and this defense could expect quarterbacks testing this secondary early and often.

Twitter @BrandonCroce

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